When Abdurrahman Mahmud first moved to the United States in 2015, he struggled to find a job that matched his level of education and work experience.
He said Minnesota employers were unaware of the Ethiopian university where he received his nursing degree or the humanitarian organizations he had worked for. So he ended up taking entry-level jobs in packaging and assembly for the first two years of his stay in Minnesota.
“I was not unemployed,” said Mahmud, also known as Abdu Rahman. “I was underemployed.”
He sees other immigrants facing similar challenges. This led to people with computer science degrees taking factory jobs and engineers working as truck drivers.
That’s why, a few years ago, he launched Twinist, an employment service and jobs website based in the Twin Cities that aims to connect immigrants with employers.
Mahmud said Twinist is different from other job sites because employers who post there show they are more open to hiring immigrants. As a result, job seekers, who sometimes get frustrated when they never hear of applications, will hopefully get more attention there.
“We have a large untapped workforce sitting here in minority immigrant communities,” Mahmud said. “So now we’re trying to fill that void.”
Some of his plans for Twinist have been delayed or put on hold by the pandemic. But he is now speeding things up at a time when employers are particularly desperate to find workers.
Minnesota faces one of the tightest job markets in the country, with job openings outnumbering the unemployed four times.
The state’s unemployment rate of 1.9% is the lowest in the United States and has hovered at historic lows for months. The latest jobs data, due Thursday, will show whether employers have made progress over the past month in filling more open jobs.
The labor shortage is partly due to a wave of retirements during the pandemic. One result is that the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has encouraged employers to recruit more from often overlooked pools of workers, such as immigrants as well as people with disabilities, older workers older and younger as well as those with a criminal record.
Abdiwahab Mohamed, DEED’s acting assistant commissioner for immigration and refugee affairs, said there can be a number of employment-related challenges for immigrants. They include system navigation issues, required credentials or licenses, and language issues. DEED has worked in some of these areas, such as providing grants to help internationally trained healthcare workers get licensed in Minnesota faster.
Mohamed added that immigrants have a higher labor force participation rate than native-born Minnesotans and have helped fuel much of the state’s economic growth.
“New immigrants want and can work,” he said. “The question is whether they are working to their full potential.”
Mahmud finally got his career started in Minnesota when he landed a job at Project Aliveness, a community health center in Minneapolis. He said that was largely because a Kenyan-American who worked there knew his former employers.
He then led a storytelling and outreach project at Mixed Blood Theater around mental health, addiction and sex education.
A few months ago, Mahmud opened an office for Twinist in St. Paul. Now he plans to move to a space in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. He said he hopes to make it a shared workspace that other community organizations can use.
As a small business consultant for the West Bank Business Association, Mahmud said he’s heard a lot of locals say they’d like to see co-working space.
Once he sets it up, he sees it as a place where immigrant job seekers can come and get help updating their resumes, doing mock interviews and filling out applications. employment.
Twinist receives a few dozen job offers and about 10,000 visits per month, he said. Some employers who have posted jobs there recently include nonprofits like the Open Arms of Minnesota and the Family Partnership as well as the City of St. Louis Park.
Jacque Smith, director of communications for St. Louis Park, said some candidates who applied for jobs in the city said they saw the opening posted on Twinist.
“Consistent with its strategic priority to advance racial equity, the city will continue to post on this site and seek other ways to recruit,” she said in an email.
Most Twinist services are free. But Mahmud hopes to gain traction with some paid options, such as a temporary hiring service that he targets for sectors such as health care, manufacturing and IT. He says he will use his connections in the community and visit schools, mosques and churches to recruit workers.
Although its main network is the African immigrant community, it also hopes to expand more to the Latino and Asian immigrant communities.
He added that he does not offer visa assistance, so job seekers must already have the correct documents in place.